Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

San Francisco State students defend ethnic studies

By Danya Zituni

Enter a descriptive sentence about the photo here.

San Francisco, CA – On Feb. 25 hundreds of students began rallying at San Francisco State University (SFSU) to defend the first and only College of Ethnic Studies (COES) in the U.S. Due to underfunding by politicians and administrators, ethnic studies is threatened with budget cuts that may close the college.

Under pressure, the University President Leslie Wong agreed to meet on Feb. 25 with SFSU students in an open forum to discuss the planned cuts. Originally the meeting was supposed to take place in a room inside the college, but due to student response, a bigger space was needed.

Hundreds of students marched from the College of Ethnic Studies towards the Seven Hills Conference Center, until they packed the building from inside to outside. Protesters met with President Wong, Provost Sue Rosser and some of the president’s cabinet with a list of ten demands to sustain and advance the College. The demands included a restoration of all pre-2007 funding, resources for faculty within the COES, a mandatory ethnic studies course for all SFSU students, and a performance review of Provost Rosser.

When the students finished the meeting on their terms, they marched out to the Malcolm X Plaza chanting, “Rise up my students! Rise up!” and “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The budget cuts have got to go!”

Veteran activists of the 1968 Third World Student Strike that created COES gave speeches, as students representing the General Union of Palestinian Students, League of Filipino Students, Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan (MEChA) and Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations also participated.

The Third World Liberation Front led the 1968-69 strike, which was the longest campus strike in U.S. history. Not only did the student-led strike win the first and only College of Ethnic Studies in the U.S., it inspired the establishment of ethnic studies classes and programs at other universities throughout the country.

“The fight for Ethnic Studies is a continuation of San Francisco State’s revolutionary legacy from the Third World Liberation Front,” said Jordan Ilagan of the League of Filipino Students. “As students of SF State, it is our duty to fight for relevant, pro-people education. We should not end our actions after meeting with President Wong but continue to organize and mobilize.” Ilagen added, “We know very well that we cannot rely on the powers that be to genuinely uphold the interests of the students.”

A member of General Union of Palestinian Students said “We gave President Wong the deadline of answering our demands by the end of Black History month, Monday, Feb. 29, at 5:00 p.m. in which he responded with a letter that completely dismissed our demands. We also asked he email it to the entire student body, which he failed to do as well. He instead posted it on his website.”

President Wong’s letter stated that cuts will not occur to the College of Ethnic Studies, and promised to allot $200,000 more to the College, a temporary fix. Students mobilized on March 16 in the Quad near Malcolm X Plaza to call on the SFSU administration to once and for all agree to the demands of advancing Ethnic Studies.

The proposed cuts of 40% of the College of Ethnic Studies budget represent the systemic gutting of COES resources at SFSU over the last decade, and across campuses in the U.S. more broadly. Since the recession, ethnic studies on many campuses, such as San Jose University, are targeted for cuts.

Funding for public education is being cut and social services are increasingly privatized. On the other side, funding for wars and the militarization of police, as well as government subsidies for corporations are escalating.

Chrisley Carpio, speaking for Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) said, “Instead of cutting classes, especially ethnic studies courses, foreign languages, and humanities, and instead of hiking up tuition, university administrators should ‘Chop from the Top.’ We are part of a growing student movement that wants to end the lavish bonuses and record-high salaries. Instead of cutting public education and scholarships, SDS tells politicians to stop increasing funding to U.S. wars and border militarization. We want a democratic society that starts prioritizing social spending and education. SDS says fund education, not U.S. military occupations.”

In opposition to a Supreme Court case out of Texas attacking Affirmative Action, National SDS began organizing to defend affirmative action and calling for increased enrollment of African American students and faculty. With the Education for All Campaign, SDS won equal access to college for undocumented students in Florida who were being forced to pay out-of-state tuition rates.

SDS is continuing the Education for All Campaign again with new demands to stop education cutbacks, for free tuition, to cancel student debt, and to make education accessible for working-class and African American, Chicano, Puerto Rican and other oppressed peoples.

#SanFranciscoCA #PeoplesStruggles #Antiracism #EthnicStudies #EducationForAll